Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pottering


It has rained enough in the past several days to make garden work discouraging.  Weeds are burgeoning!   I have moved my gift hydrangea into a larger pot, teasing apart snarls of roots that were tangled in the bottom of the original plastic pot.  I understand that nursery plants are presented in cramped and outgrown containers [I worked years ago in two retail garden nurseries] both to conserve display space and to make the plants look appealingly 'full.' 
I suspect that too many folks toss out a plant when it begins to look shabby, when what is really needed is fresh soil and a larger pot so the roots can relax and spread. 

On the edge of the porch are my heirloom tomato seedlings meant for a later crop, rosemary seedlings which are growing very sluggishly and  muskmelon--again for a later crop.  We bought started plants of tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and green peppers which are nicely settled in the garden. 
The Yukon Gold potatoes are 'up,' sweet potato plants are in the ground.
Jim picked strawberries late this afternoon and requested they be served with maple syrup on waffles--an easy Sunday night supper.


Last summer a friend gave me a clump of spiderwort [tradescantia] from her parents' property.
It has settled nicely into the rather gritty sloping space below the concrete landing at the bottom of the stairs which lead from the side porch to the lower level.
The soil there is shallow--like most of the area which surrounds our house--I have set in daylilies and sturdy wildflower types gleaned from the hill pasture.


Between showers I worked at clearing the herb bed near the side porch steps.  I removed two dead lavenders and a purple sage which succumbed to winter cold and damp.  I have set in a new plant of common sage, tided the sprawling lavenders, yanked [crossly] at the ever invasive runners from the rugosa--which is not of my planting!


Heavy rain on Saturday afternoon and evening have spoiled the last blossoms of the clematis,
'Mr. President'.



These two photos were taken mid-week at the height of bloom.


Double-Pink Knock-Out, planted several weeks ago has started to bloom.


Heirloom peony--perhaps Sarah Bernhardt.


Double-Red Knock-out--a cliche', but sturdy and dependable!


Roses clipped as the rain began on Wednesday.


Two rain-battered peonies, a clutch of roses gathered at dusk this evening--after an hour of ripping away at the mugwort surrounding the peonies.


I must remember to take vases of flowers into the pantry before I go to bed--otherwise Mima-cat nibbles at them, pulling stems from the water and leaving them to languish.


Hawkeye Belle, petals only slightly marred by the rain.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Headlong Into Summer


"Michael attacked the nettles and bindweed round the rosemary tree with exhilaration.
An hour later, exhausted but triumphant, he sat down on the wall of the paved court, sleepily relaxed in the sun, and contemplated the result of his labors.  He thought it good, for like all amateur gardeners he did not worry about roots he could not see. the whole bed below the wall was [above ground] clear, the lemon verbena could breathe and the sun could reach the white violets under the wall, and the small deep purple ones that grew about the roots of the rosemary tree."
 From "The Rosemary Tree" by Elizabeth Goudge

On Sunday afternoon I spent several hours 'attacking' the weeds that surround the rugosa, Roserie de L'Hay and the nameless rose in the far corner of the perennial strip. It was hot work, made more difficult by the over-hanging branches of the rose which had a tendency to snatch at my hair.  I had to be mindful of the two still fragile clematis vines on the trellis against the fence, and the clumps of coneflower and phlox around which I tried to maneuver with care.
Although there are other weeds [whose names I seem to forget] the main culprits are bindweed and mugwort. 
I stood to loosen clumps of heavy soil with my flat-tined fork, then knelt [most uncomfortably] with a slender pointed trowel to get at the weeds. 
Bindweed grows from a sturdy and tenacious root, sending out tendrils which climb and twine round every plant in the vicinity. 
Mugwort spreads by stringy tough roots that pop up a new plant, move on a few inches and send up another--and another....
I was very aware that much of my labor was removing only what was visible above the ground....a classic exercise in futility.
I worked on for nearly three hours, knees protesting, feeling the ache that was settling into shoulder and neck muscles. 
Inside, showered, twigs and leaf bits brushed out of my hair, I put together a casserole of spaghetti and meatballs, made a pitcher of lemonade.
I found the old book with its yellowed pages and tattered paper cover, fell into my rocking chair and began to read the familiar story.

Today I yanked out the mugwort which has been strangling a clump of Lady's Mantle.  Mugwort, I have discovered, in addition to its thuggish manner of taking over a garden,  has at this stage of burgeoning growth, an unpleasant almost musty odor which causes my nose to run.
Storm clouds were gathering and a few spatters of rain moved in to the accompaniment of thunder.
Jim was making arrangements to deliver a tractor he had sold and I decided to ride along. 
The storm broke as we roared down the lane, the buyer following in his car.
Water pounded against the windshield, tree branches tossed under the onslaught.
The trip took less than an hour--following twisting roads, moving in and out of the rain.

Tonight I sat on the porch in the green gloaming, Charlie-cat on my lap, idly watching the pinpoint lights of fireflies, enjoying the scent of clove pinks,  the whir of hummingbirds' wings as they zoomed in for a late evening snack.  A breeze stirred, driving away the heat of the day.

I have two bags of fresh potting soil.  The 2 year old rosemary needs a larger pot;  a sturdy lantana needs a planter;  a few nursery plants need to go into the garden.
Perhaps there has been enough rain to make digging a bit easier. 
I leave you with photos taken over the past few days.
Enjoy!

The trellis where I've been battling weeds

Sunshine on a full blown rose

Therese Bugnet

First year of bloom for this iris

Dianthus 'Old Vermont'


The first peony to open--hemmed about with mugwort.

Clematis: 'The President' and 'Duchess of Edinburgh


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Gardening Is Not Easily Relinquished!

Monday morning mist.


Clematis Candida made a brave showing in spite of the buds lost to successive April frosts.
I saved seeds from last season's crop, sowed them indoors in late winter.  None germinated. 
There are some new vines climbing up the trellis; I wonder if seeds dropped and germinated there or if the new growth came from the roots. 
The blossoms have peaked, but I find this plant appealing at all stages.


Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh has opened her first blossoms today.


Roserie de L'Hay, a favorite old rugosa.  I planted one of this variety at our first Kentucky property.  By the third season it was sending runners into the lawn [as rugosas will!]  I potted up several and brought them here to the Amish farm;  This one is thriving robustly.  The scent is delightful.


Irises in bud remind me of beautiful batik fabrics.  Fortunately, iris seem to thrive in spite of heavy soil and persistent weeds. [Mugwort!  Bah!]



These iris are in the rough strip near the bend in the lane.  I used it as a holding area for plants carried here in the fall of our move.  The soil is shallow and gravely--it didn't prove to be a workable plot.


Miniature iris from Gina's home.  I moved a clump of these to the perennial strip, tucking them against the retaining timber at the edge nearest the driveway.  I intend to relocate more of them when blooming has finished.


The yellow ones are lovely--although my photo isn't well defined.


Looking toward the lower farm buildings on my way back to our house.


I am calling this scene a creative mess--obviously I need a greenhouse for potting up seedlings and dealing with container plantings.


I was slower than usual leaving my bed this morning.  By way of excuse, Teasel-cat was curled comfortably on my feet and I was loath to disturb her.
Jim and neighbor/renter Fred, planned to help a friend with an on-going building project at the other end of the county. 
I decided this was a good time for me to drive to Russell Springs for shopping.

I've been feeling displeased with some micro-fiber sheets I recently put on the bed, and remembering that K-Mart in Wyoming carried a good selection of bedding, I hoped that the local K-Mart would have what I wanted.
The local store is apparently fazing out bedding--the only offerings were quite dreadful.
[Whatever has  happened to smooth, crisp, cotton percale sheets?]

Kroger supermarket is located in the same plaza, so I quickly bought fresh salad makings, stowed them in the car, and headed a few miles down the highway to a garden center I have visited 
in the past.

I've convinced myself that I need more shrub roses--a row of them along the brick path, well mulched, should provide non labor-intensive bloom.
I was disheartened to find that the garden center no longer stocked perennials or roses!
I did find a thriving prostrate rosemary [I've been looking for one since my lovely big plant froze on a cold night several years ago.]

I bought a 3-pack of bronze-leaved begonias, a mini sunflower in a pot, and a lemon verbena.
At home I quickly put away groceries, dished out the cats' tea, put potatoes in the oven to bake.

The afternoon was spent contentedly potting on heirloom tomato seedlings, giving separate pots to the small foxglove plants, mixing soil [perlite to loosen a baggged potting mix] arranging basil and parsley in planters, watering.

I intended clearing away my mess before Jim arrived home, but was still happily pottering when I heard the roar of the Dodge diesel turning up the lane. 
The truck paused to let Fred out at the lower house, then ground slowly along the gravel lane.
The cats who had been 'helping' me--Willis, Charlie, Sally--scattered as Jim brought the truck along-side the porch.


Jim handed me a carrier bag with flowers visible at the top.  I snatched off the bag and exclaimed, 
" A hydrangea!  I've been coveting one!"
"I don't know what it is," replied Jim.  "I just thought it looked pretty."

I left my 'mess' on the porch to follow him into the house, set out food, hear about his day.
I placed the hydrangea on the table, gloating over it, shooing away the cats who wanted to investigate.  Information on the tag indicates that this is a dwarf shrub that would appreciate wintering indoors near a cool window.  I shall have to read more on its care.

After supper I took apples to the goats; Gina sent some that had withered, sliced into eighths they are a treat for the goats. 
The two youngest of the milk goats were in the milking parlor and happy to have sliced apples added to their ration of grain. 
The goats munched,  the barn cats gathered in anticipation of those first squirts of milk aimed into their dish.

It was growing dark as I walked slowly home; Willis met me at the bend of the lane. [I seldom notice that he is escorting me, but he is always waiting when I return.]

Reluctant to stay indoors, I carried out the angel wing begonias and the Swedish ivy which have over-wintered in the east-facing basement room. They will spend the summer on the lower porch.

Working in the glow of the front porch light I swept away scattered potting soil, lined up trays of seedlings, poked plastic picnic knives into pots of herbs and flowers to protect the small plants  from the pawings of curious cats.

Inside at last--and realizing, not for the first time, that when I garden, housework suffers; only the most basic necessities have been done today: bed-making, bathrooms cleaned, dishes washed and put away.
Common sense [and aging knees!] dictate that the scale of my gardening endeavors needs to be modified--and I'm working that out. 
Still, a summer without flowering plants, without a veg plot, however limited, would be no kind of summer.  With Jim tilling and hoeing, with me fussing over transplants, weather obliging--there will be gardens!








Friday, May 4, 2018

Edging Towards Summer


Photo taken at a friend's property on Sunday


The air this morning carried the scent of rain.  After a week of sunny skies and warming temperatures, it was time for a gentle rain.
We have been gardening at intervals all week.  Jim used one of the tractors and the rotavator to work the soil in the upper and lower gardens, then went around to till our renter's garden plot.
We made a trip to Homestead Gardens in the South Fork community to select seed potatoes, cucumber, melon and pepper plants.
The seed potato varieties were all priced at 79 cents per pound. A stack of paper bags was provided for customers to fill with their choice.  Jim chose potatoes while I hovered over the bench of herbs, choosing flat-leaved Italian parsley, purple and green basil for the planter near the front steps.
When a clerk weighed out the potatoes he suggested that for less than a dollar more we could have a 50 pound sack.  We didn't need that many, but felt sure we could share them with our neighbor/renter.


Back at home, I established myself on the sunny side porch to cut the potatoes.  I collected several large buckets and a plastic pan, a newly sharpened knife.  On the way out of the kitchen I wondered if the warm day might have welcomed a hummingbird or two.
I quickly prepared syrup and hung a feeder; within moments I was rewarded with the familiar whir of wings as a 'hummer' perched to drink. 
Jim set out a few tomato plants and made several short rows for potatoes in the garden by the shop, then loaded more plants--and more cut potatoes--onto the 4 wheeler to convey them to the long strip of garden below the lower farm house. 

Clematis, Duchess of Edinburgh

Clematis, Candida


I worked barefoot in the garden, dropping potatoes into the trenches Jim had made, then misting them with the spray to control potato bugs.  We prefer not to use chemicals but having tried without success a number of ploys to manage the invasion of potato bugs, we use the single application spray.  We consider that when buying potatoes [which we do for much of the year] a similar product has likely been applied.


Spice-scented pinks have blossomed along the brick path--in spite of the mugwort.

I have potted on the seedlings of foxglove and rosemary which I started on the pantry windowsill. 
Heirloom tomato seeds [saved last year from Fred's garden] and cantaloupe for later plantings have already pushed their way through the soil and can be moved to the porch early next week.

My order of miniature lilies arrived.  To my astonishment the grower sent duplicates of each variety as a no charge 'bonus.'
I purchased light weight galvanized tubs for the lilies and now have too many lilies for my tubs!

The rosemary which over-wintered in the east window of the sunroom has been shorn of the rather weak tendrils it put out in less than ideal light, and has been moved to the porch.
Over-wintered begonias have received fresh soil and are likewise now outside.
I am still over-whelmed by the crop of weeds [mugwort predominating] in the perennial strips and feeling that I'm unlikely to find a satisfactory remedy. 

I like to record wildflowers as they come into bloom.
I"m intrigued by the pink tint on the fleabane.

Repeated  attempts to capture the delicate sprays of wood vetch have resulted in blurry photos.
A light wind has kept vegetation stirred all week.

Ragwort--I think.

Dogwood has its brief glory of blooms before becoming 'lost' in woodland thickets.

Possibly rue anemone--I need to find my wildflower book--put away for the winter.

Bellwort sways above the carpet of last year's leaves on the ridge that rises beyond the stable. 


There are cats to keep me company in my outdoor chores.
This is Crumple, the unwelcome itinerant tom who has visited spasmodically during two winters.  I have hoped he would go away. 
He has been claiming the porch rocking chair overnight and rushes at me with loud hoarse cries of enthusiasm when I go out in early morning with kibble for the outside cats.

Willis [of course] is with me on all my wanderings about the dooryard and lane. 

Inside, on this quiet rainy afternoon, I turned from putting cookies in the oven to find the group waiting for their 'tea.'

I dished out dollops of tinned food, knelt on the floor to referee the greedy ones who gulp their portion and attempt to steal from the slower eaters.


In the misty dusk I walked down the lane with salad trimmings for the goats.
The barn cats greeted me with upright tails, rolled about my feet, purred--hopeful that I might have a treat for them.  The milk goats crowded their trough when I opened the gate that leads to their section of pasture. There was snatching, loud munching, some shoving.
I walked slowly back along the lane, noting the crimson flash of a cardinal, the sound of water burbling toward the culvert; the evening air held a light sweet scent of unseen blossoms, of fresh green leaves, grass. 

The week comes to an end with so few of the items on my 'to do' list ticked off--and yet--things have been accomplished that were unplanned: a visit to former neighbors;  a meal of sandwiches in town; time at the piano; an afternoon of baking.
The things I manage to get done keep us going;  many tasks and projects that fret me may never be tackled.
Surely it should be enough--simply to move along with the endless turning of the seasons.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Taking Stock of the Garden


 It has been a cold and laggardly springtime.  There has been rain--not hours of deluge, but bursts of rain varying from persistent drizzle to brief but heavy showers that drummed loudly on our metal roof. The wind, stirring through trees that have held the slightest promise of green leaves, has had a bite that would have seemed better suited to March.
The sun has appeared just often enough to give us assurance that it still exits.
We have kept a fire, letting it putter along, enough to keep out the damp chill.


Last year my heirloom clematis, 'Candida', opened a first blossom on 5 April and within a week the vine was covered in bloom. 
Night after April night this year, temperatures have dipped a few degrees below the freezing point;  I draped the trellis in an old tablecloth, using clothespins to hold it in place.  
Inevitably the cold seeped under and around the covering and  I have fretted over the many frost-blighted buds.



The undamaged buds are to be treasured!


This morning I counted five open blossoms. 


Fog was heavy this morning when I ventured out before 7. The bend in the lane, the lower farmhouse, stable, and even the nearer goat pastures were swathed in white mist.



Looking down the brook it appeared as though someone had flung sheer white handkerchiefs over grass and twigs.


Bobby Mac picked his way through the wet grass and weeds.


Frost has not damaged the invasive wild honeysuckle. 



At a little after 8, sunshine was vanquishing the mist--and my camera, on the second trip outside, decided to change to the correct date.


The tulip poplar which looms beyond the kitchen window is finally putting forth leaves.  It is usually the earliest dooryard tree to break dormancy.


The strawberry plants in the garden strip at the end of the lane have blossomed abundantly in spite of the cold. Vigorous new plants have formed from runners.
Both the strawberries and the raspberry canes have propagated themselves--without regard to proper boundaries.


Jim decreed that we should do some dividing and transplanting this noon--as well as attacking the weeds which seem to be perennial.
The sun was warm, the rich soil alive with earthworms.
The baby goats [belonging to our renters] had been brought out for the day to a newly enclosed area in front of the house.  Even the two youngest, born Monday, are ready to caper about, bouncing with the three older ones.  When they are tired, all five fold into a companionable heap--a quick nap before they are up and busy again. 

Back at the house, I made a raspberry milkshake--thick with vanilla ice cream--carried it out to the side porch where I have seedlings to transplant into larger pots: rosemary and foxglove. 
I sowed cantaloupe, an heirloom variety, and some of the seeds saved from neighbor Fred's large 'pink' tomatoes.  [He lost the label last year, so they have become 'Fred's Pink!']

Since i was already grubby, I decided to work in the perennial strip. It was a decidedly disheartening attempt to create order.  The soil there is still too damp and heavy to work up well--and the plantations of mugwort and other nameless weeds have flourished in spite of my dogged efforts to be rid of them.  The winter brought losses: none of the salvia survived.  There are other gaps--but I can't recall what should be there!
I've been eyeing the butterfly bush [buddleia] with misgivings--not wanting to accept winter-kill.  
F. was here on a errand when I was poking dolefully at it.  He snapped off twigs here and there, confirming my fears and recommending that it be cut back to just above the new growth appearing at the base of the stump.  Jim made short work of it with the chainsaw and I dragged off the dry grey branches.  I'm hopeful the new growth with be strong and there may be an autumn flowering.  In the meantime, that corner of the garden looks suddenly bare.

I feel that this is the season when I must find solutions for dealing with the weeds which have persisted through applications of mulch; then there are the weeds which clamber over and under the pasture fence to invade. 
Do I give in to my rickety knees, abandon the plants which have tenaciously survived? 
At such times I mourn the garden I created at our first Kentucky home--hours of work to maintain, but good soil,  better options in terms of space and sunlight. 
I daresay I will persist--try to find ways to grow the flowers I love--creaking, grumbling, but still gardening!